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Strong on defense and in net


USA Hockey has had a bumpy selection process for the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

General manager Stan Bowman stepped aside after also leaving his Chicago Blackhawks position after an investigation into how that team mishandled a 2010 sexual assault complaint against a member of its coaching staff.

The length of time it took Jack Eichel to get traded and have neck surgery could keep him out of the Olympics. T.J. Oshie, Max Pacioretty and Jack Hughes were injured early in the season and Blake Wheeler was slowed by a stint on the COVID-19 protocol list.

The USA has named forwards Patrick Kane and Auston Matthews, plus defenseman Seth Jones to the team. The remaining players will be announced in January.

Here are some early predictions of who could make the team:

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck won the Vezina Trophy in 2020.

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck won the Vezina Trophy in 2020.

Goaltenders

Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs

Analysis: Though Campbell and Gibson are having better seasons, Hellebuyck likely will be the key as a former Vezina Trophy winner who finished in the top five two other times. Campbell has among the best statistics in the league, and Gibson has appeared frequently for USA Hockey and is putting up strong numbers with an improved Ducks team in front of him. The USA could choose to select Spencer Knight to give him the Olympic experience.

Other possibilities: Knight, Florida Panthers; Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles

Defensemen

Adam Fox, New York Rangers

Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins

Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks

Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes

Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets

Seth Jones, Chicago Blackhawks

John Carlson, Washington Capitals

Torey Krug, St. Louis Blues

Analysis: A lot of offensive potential and puck-moving ability in this group, led by Fox, the reigning Norris Trophy winner. Slavin is included for his penalty-killing prowess and shutdown ability. There’s an even mix of right and left shots. Jones, acquired from the Blue Jackets in the offseason, could play alongside former teammate Werenski. Question for USA Hockey. Does Brett Pesce make the team to play alongside Slavin?

Other possibilities: Pesce, Hurricanes; Neal Pionk, Winnipeg Jets; Ryan McDonagh, Tampa Bay Lightning.

Centers

Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks

Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings

Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars

We’re assuming Eichel won’t be ready. If he is, he’s the No. 2 center. This group has goals in Matthews (No. 2 since he entered the NHL in 2017), size in Miller, speed in Larkin and veteran leadership in Pavelski. Jack Hughes would be a strong possibility if he weren’t injured. He could play his way onto the team depending on how he fares once he returns. Regardless, the center depth doesn’t match up to Canada.

Other possibilities: Hughes, New Jersey Devils; Vincent Trocheck, Carolina Hurricanes; Blake Coleman, Calgary Flames; Andrew Copp, Jets

Wingers

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

Alex DeBrincat, Blackhawks

Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames

Johnny Gaudreau, Flames

Chris Kreider, New York Rangers

Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets

Troy Terry, Anaheim Ducks

Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins

Max Pacioretty, Vegas Golden Knights

Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators

Analysis: Kane is one of three players to top 1,100 points since he entered the league in 2007, and DeBrincat has put up big numbers alongside Kane in Chicago. Chemistry is also why Matthew Tkachuk and Gaudreau made this list. Connor is a finisher, Kreider thrives on the power play and Guentzel is a strong complement to top-line players. Terry, who played in the non-NHL 2018 Olympics, needs to be rewarded for his strong start. Brady Tkachuk joins his brother on the team. The injury situations of Oshie and Pacioretty will need to be monitored. Both are versatile and as Oshie showed in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, he thrives in the shootout. But Oshie is hurt again after returning for one game.

Other possibilities: Oshie, Washington Capitals; Cam Atkinson, Philadelphia Flyers; Drake Batherson, Ottawa Senators

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2022 Olympics: Predicting who makes Team USA men’s hockey team



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